Top 25 Unusual College Football Team Nicknames

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Nicknames can showcase a school's creativity in branding its athletic teams. It's always fun to run across teams who choose non-traditional nicknames. Sometimes, it is a connection to the history of the school or region. Other times, the nickname choice defies explanation.

These 25 college football teams top the list of athletic teams bearing unique and creative nicknames:

1. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Before 1923, Wake Forest was known as the Fighting Baptists. That changed after a victory over Duke in 1923, when a newspaper reporter coined the term "Demon Deacons" to refer to Wake Forest's devilish play and fighting spirit.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Virginia Tech's nickname was inspired by a string of words opening the "Old Hokie" spirit yell created in 1896. The word "hokie" has been around in some form since 1842 and is used to excitement, approval or surprise.

3. Purdue Boilermakers: Purdue's nickname dates back to the late 19th century. From 1891 to 1894, Purdue won 26 of 30 games and allowed just 204 points. Its physical defenses led to opponents describing the team as burly "boiler makers."

4. Akron Zips: The Zips name is derived from "zippers," a type of rubber shoes made by the BF Goodrich Company and sold during the 1920s and 1930s.

5. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers: WKU's nickname is inspired by campus geography. It is located on the highest point in south central Kentucky and overlooks the Barren River valley.

6. Louisiana-Lafayette Rajun Cajuns: Louisiana-Lafayette has embraced the state's past with its nickname. Cajun is a term used to refer to the descendants of the original French settlers in Louisiana.

7. Vanderbilt Commodores: In honor of school founder, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the nickname Commodores was adopted. Commodore was originally the highest rank in the U.S. Navy before the Civil War. It was higher than a captain, but lower than an admiral. Vanderbilt, who made a fortune in shipping, earned the nickname the Commodore in the late 1800s.

8. Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens: Delaware's unusual nickname is drawn from the state bird, a blue hen chicken.

9. Alabama Crimson Tide: Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald, is credited with coining the phrase "Crimson Tide." Roberts used it to describe Alabama in the 1907 Iron Bowl after it played a favored Auburn team to a 6-6 tie.

10. Arkansas Razorbacks: Originally, Arkansas was nicknamed the Cardinals. That all changed after the 1909 football team finished 7-0 and allowed only 18 points all season. Coach Hugo Bezdek said his team played like a wild band of razorback hogs. The nickname Razorbacks became official the following year.

11. North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC's nickname makes sense when placed in context. Tar heel refers to a North Carolina resident because it is known as the Tar Heel State.

12. Maryland Terrapins: The nickname Terrapins was coined in 1932 by football coach Harry C. "Curley" Byrd. It is drawn from a type of turtle native to the Chesapeake Bay region. The terrapin is the state reptile of Maryland.

13. Oklahoma Sooners: Oklahoma has drawn its nickname from a name used to refer to white settlers who came to the state in the late 19th century when it was Indian Territory and the federal government opened it up for settlement.

14. Tulsa Golden Hurricane: Originally, Tulsa had adopted the nickname Golden Tornadoes in 1922 until head coach Howard Acher found out Georgia Tech had taken the name. Acher simply substituted Hurricane in place of tornadoes and the Tulsa nickname was born.

15. Presbyterian Blue Hose: Around 1915, Presbyterian teams began to wear blue stockings in athletic competitions. They were called the Blue Stockings, inspired by baseball teams like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. The name was shortened to Blue Hose by the late '50s.

16. Southern Illinois Salukis: Southern Illnois chose the Saluki, the royal dog of Egypt, as a mascot because the southern part of the state is known as little Egypt.

17. Syracuse Orange: The athletic nickname for Syracuse is inspired by the school's official color. Prior to 2004, men's teams were known as the Orangemen and women's teams were known as the Orangewomen.

18. Furman Paladins: Until 1961, Paladins just referred to Furman's men's basketball team. That year, it became the official nickname for all sports teams. A paladin is synonymous with a knight.

19. Tulane Green Wave: This nickname was adopted during the 1920 season, inspired by a football song called "The Rolling Green Wave" that was published in the Tulane student newspaper.

20. Western Illinois Leathernecks: Western Illinois holds distinction as the only non-military school to use a military nickname. It has used leathernecks with permission from the United States Marine Corps since 1927.

21. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers: When the school became affiliated with South Carolina in the mid-1960s, a mascot was chosen to replace Trojans. Coastal Carolina adopted the Chanticleers, a name inspired by a rooster character from the literary work "Canterbury Tales."

22. Tennessee Volunteers: Tennessee's nickname is inspired by the fact that Tennessee is known as the Volunteer state. It is often shortened to Vols for men's teams and Lady Vols for women's teams.

23. Indiana Hoosiers: The school's nickname mirrors the nickname for Indiana residents. It is known as the Hoosier state.

24. Campbell Fighting Camels: Only one other college on any level in the United States carries the nickname the camels. Campbell adopted the nickname in 1933, replacing the previous nickname of the hornets.

25. North Texas Mean Green: The name Mean Green originally referred to a North Texas football team that second in the nation in rushing defense during the 1966 season. It later stuck as the official nickname for all athletic teams.

John Coon is a graduate of the University of Utah and has covered college football as a reporter in Salt Lake City.

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